A gunman killed a sixth-grade student and injured five other people at a high school in Perry, Iowa, early Thursday morning just as students were arriving back to school after their winter break.
Four of the injured were students, and one was an administrator, said Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, at a news conference on Thursday. One of the injuries was critical. Officials did not release their identities. The shooter, Dylan Butler, a 17-year-old student at Perry High School, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Mr. Mortvedt said. Law enforcement believe he acted alone.
Mr. Mortvedt said calls about an active shooter began coming in just after 7:30 a.m. and emergency responders arrived at Perry High School, about 40 miles northwest of Des Moines, seven minutes later. Mr. Mortvedt said the attack took place before school began, but a breakfast program was catering to students from multiple grades at the time of the shooting.
Mr. Mortvedt said that when law enforcement arrived on the scene, they found multiple victims with gunshot wounds, and students and faculty sheltering in place and running from the school. They also found a “rudimentary” improvised explosive device, Mr. Mortvedt said, and agents with the state fire marshal and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “rendered the device safe.”
The gunman was armed with a shotgun and a handgun, Mr. Mortvedt said. He also made “a number of social media posts in and around the time of the shooting,” which law enforcement officials are investigating, Mr. Mortvedt said. The motive was not yet known.
About 150 law enforcement officers responded to the scene, Mr. Mortvedt said.
As of Thursday afternoon, multiple patients were being treated at Iowa Methodist Medical Center and MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center, Polk County Medical Coordination Center said in a statement.
Ava Augustus, a senior at Perry High School, told WHO 13 News that she was in her counselor’s office when she heard three gunshots. When they got the all-clear, she saw “glass everywhere,” “blood on the floor,” and a student being taken out of the auditorium who had been shot in the leg.
Jody Kurth told KCCI 8 News, a local CBS affiliate, that her stepson, a student at Perry High School, was hurt in the shooting. She described the morning attack as “an absolute nightmare.” Her daughter texted her to let her know about the shooter, she said, calling it “one of the worst moments of my entire life.”
Both children were safe, she told KCCI.
At a community center in Perry, a bus dropped off students from the elementary school, where parents waited for their children to arrive. One of the first parents was Amanda Woods, 34, a mother of two young sons.
“At first I wasn’t sure which school it was at,” said Ms. Woods, who had been listening to the police scanner to get more information of the shooting. “I was freaking out.”
The shooting added an extra layer of national attention to the small community of Perry, where about 8,000 people live. Major media organizations were already in the area on Thursday to cover a scheduled campaign event by the Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, who hosted a prayer circle just hours after the attack. Attendees expressed fear, but little surprise.
“God please help our country,” said Mr. Ramaswamy as he addressed the prayer event and shook hands with everyone, calling it a “somber day.”
Mr. Ramaswamy was in Iowa ahead of the state’s Republican caucuses, scheduled for Jan. 15.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said President Biden had been briefed on the shooting.
“Our students and teachers deserve to know that their schools are safe spaces and to focus on learning — not duck and cover drills,” she said at a briefing on Thursday.
In a statement on social media, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa called the “appalling violence” at Perry High School “heartbreaking” and thanked school and law enforcement officials for their quick response.
Shelbie Lehman came into Mr. Ramaswamy’s event with her partner after picking up her first grade daughter from elementary school after hearing about the shooting at the high school.
“It’s very scary having them walk your kid out with a gun and officer, and having seven, eight cops there,” Ms. Lehman told Mr. Ramaswamy.
Ms. Lehman said it was hard to explain to her daughter why there were so many police and why she was picked up from school. She said she planned to try explain things to her daughter later today as best she could.
The Perry Community School District said the high school, middle school and elementary school would be closed on Friday.
Remy Tumin and Victor Mather reported from New York. Molly Longman and Leah McBride Mensching contributed reporting from Perry, Iowa.